I recently googled “worst four year starting quarterback” while doing some research. The first four results were links to statistical analysis of NFL quarterbacks, but the fifth was to Reggie Ball’s wikipedia. I think Georgia Tech’s fans would agree he doesn’t have much of a legacy on the field, but his statistics weren’t all that awful considering the rest of the team sucked too. This WAS the end of the Chan Gailey Era, after all.
Aside for pure schadenfreude, the reason I was researching the worst four-year starting quarterbacks ever is because I was looking for a way to disprove my thesis: that Jordan Jefferson just might be the worst player ever to start at quarterback for all four years.
Side note: I realize Jefferson started only parts of two of his four years, but he was always in the mix (especially in his freshman and senior years) and Les Miles keeping him out there against Alabama in the national championship game at least shows the coach’s commitment to him throughout his career, inexplicable though it was.
While Jefferson’s legacy of on-field struggle is his hallmark, he is not potentially the worst ever just because of that. Off-field behavior became an issue before his senior season as well. And if I may speculate a bit, if a player gets caught fighting or doing some other dumb thing when they should be at home, then they’ve done it at least five other times without getting caught. What’s not speculation is that Jefferson repeatedly proved he did not care one little bit about working to improve as a quarterback.
I was doing all this as my two-year old son watched “Gangs of New York” on television (oops), so I definitely don’t have the time for true statistical comparison. But if some one (ESPN when they have nothing better to do) is going to really figure this thing out, here is what they’ll have to beat:
- A 58.6 career completion percentage despite only throwing 678 career passes, and only 100 his senior season after returning from suspension. For comparison, Alabama starter A.J. McCarron attempted 328 passes just this season alone; essentially half of the attempts Jefferson had in his entire career.
- 1,018 career rushing yards for a 2.8 yards per carry average and 12 touchdowns. You’d think a guy who two offensive coordinators didn’t want throwing the ball much would at least be valuable as a runner. After all, Jefferson is pretty freaking athletic, but no, he didn’t bring that to the table either.
- Having a reasonably good 2010 season which gave the Tigers a little hope heading into 2011, then promptly assaulting some guy in his car, getting arrested, and getting suspended for the first few games of the season. He’s pleading not guilty, by the way, despite there being dozens of witnesses.
- Being the symbol of failure for two different offensive coordinators. First for Gary Crowton, then for Steve Kragthorpe (well, for Kragthorpe’s system since he didn’t coach much of this year).
- Having a brutally bad game in the BCS National Championship game, which doubled as his final college game. Bad enough, but also playing the entire game and never being pulled. Maybe more of a coaches’ issue than anything, but bad series after bad series with no improvement…yikes.
- Subsequently blaming everyone else, including the coaches, for his own bad performance in the title game.
- Creating an overall belief that LSU was winning in spite of him. Since he couldn’t throw well, LSU’s receivers were never a threat with him on the field. Since he wasn’t a true runner, only LSU’s running backs got the ball on the ground, meaning they constantly ran into eight defenders.
- Managing to eclipse Jarrett Lee, also in his final season as a Tiger. By his senior year, Lee was an actual game manager, not a guy who just sucked at most phases like Jefferson. Who knows what Alabama would have done if Lee had been on the field and Saban knew he could get the ball to LSU’s athletic receivers.
Now that the Jefferson Era is over in Baton Rouge, LSU fans are stuck knowing that the past four years have proven that they won a bunch of games and had one of the most talented teams in the entire country. And also that Les Miles has no idea what to do with a player who clearly doesn’t care about the team, is not a good talent evaluator (see Russell Shephard playing wide receiver instead of being the running quarterback LSU needed), and repeatedly chokes on big coaching decisions in important games.
Maybe this should be about Les Miles being the worst coach ever instead…